Robyn is back. If you have been online and paying attention to music over the past few months you have probably seen the Tweets, long-form interviews and more about the return of Robyn. She has finally released her new album Honey, which follows up the acclaimed and beloved 2010 album Body Talk.
For a pop star of her status, Robyn has been largely silent over the past eight years. After her album was released, she received critical acclaim and toured some on the back of it, but she quickly took a step back from the burning spotlight.
However her music never did. Instead it only seemed to grow in popularity, being remixed without end, getting placements on TV consistently and her growing, loyal fanbase keeping her spirit alive. Her music always felt like it could have come from an past time period and still be relevant in a future pop era, which separated her from most other pop stars who looked to simply be the biggest in the pop zeitgeist at that moment, tour and then move onto the next trend.
Honey at its core is about lifting one’s self out of a heartbreak and seeking to find meaning on the other side. She has always dealt with issues of the heart and loss in a unique and powerful manner, whether it was her parent’s divorce with a song called “In My Heart” or the fun, yet melancholic “Dancing On My Own.”
Honey starts with the anthemic “Missing U,” which may be the most single friendly, but the most heart wrenching as she laments, “this empty space you left behind.”
Robyn maps out her path out of that hole with the titles of each song and her own lyrics. The instrumentals will match her mood and what you may feel walking or even dancing along the journey that she took over the past several years making this record.
You can get lost in Robyn’s music in a different way this time. It doesn’t just have to be hands in the air, sweaty dancing. It can be a contemplative and thoughtful. Both make time lapse until the following morning or make it feel as if it is standing still with just you and Robyn.
That bridge between melancholy and the sugary melodies she is known for is found perfectly on the disco-influenced “Because It’s in the Music.” As she explains to Pitchfork, the song is about that song that was the song for a relationship, but “maybe it’s over, and you don’t know if that person feels the same way and thinks about you.” Like that feeling, the strings and Robyn’s voice draws you into the disco euphoria that at any moment could fracture.
One of the more intriguing elements of the record is how conscious she is to make sure that this album flows together. Pop in the streaming era is by default the easiest genre to take apart and put on playlists. The care that is taken to actually order and place songs together is by and large lost.
Honey is not like that. Place this on your record player and let the full 40 minutes go and you will be thrilled. It isn’t supposed to be parsed apart for a playlist single here or there. That is in part because the album isn’t packed full of bangers, but also because she is telling a story. “Baby Forgive Me,” continues into “Send To Robin Immediately” with the same lyric and identity, but she continues to build on the same type of story with more purpse.
The moment pivots during these two songs as she lives in two minds, asking for forgiveness and wants to try one time with its soft synths echo in the background before she starts to sing with more purpose on “Send To Robin Immediately” and demands answers tonight. “If you got somebody to love / (Say it and mean it, baby) / Know you got nothing to lose,” she sings with power.
The album title tracks tied in to “Send To Robin Immediately” with a sensuality that feels good asking someone to get the honey. There is an acceptance that this may not be the answer, but it is what you will get at the moment. “You're not gonna get what you need / But baby, I have what you want / Come get your honey,” she sings. “Maybe ‘Honey’ describes a state of mind instead of the actual substance,” she says to Pitchfork, as the song chugs along over a deep low-end beat. The album starts to lift further up with “Between The Lines,” drawing on 90’s house music and the jazz and disco influenced “Beach2k20,” which sees her get back to wanting to have fun again. The album ends with the triumphant, fuck the world anthem “Ever Again” for those who have gone through a breakup and don’t want to deal with it again. “Never gonna be brokenhearted / Ever again / That shit's out the door,” she sings. It is fun and funky and brings back the carefree dancefloor feeling many fans were probably hoping to get coming into the record.
It has been eight years since Robyn released music, but the wait has been well worth it. Welcome back queen. Pick up your copy here.